Monday, March 23, 2009

Valentina Cosmonaut

Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman to orbit the Earth and she did so (1963) only a couple of years after the first human ever to leave this planet (1961), Yuri Gagarin. I think she deserves more glory and picked her as my representative of women in science and technology on Ada Lovelace day. Actually I think the Russians in general deserves more honor for their contribution to human culture. Because space exploration, as science and technology, is in fact an important element of human culture, not just a utilitarian tool.

There are many women we can and should admire within science and technology. Sadly they are not given as much credit for their achievements as their male counterparts. That is just how life is, I'm telling my son. Teaching him at the same time to never underestimate a woman. Never.

Valentina Tereshkova and Yuri Gagarin

To me Valentina clearly illustrates that women by no means are afraid of technology. In fact they are willing to be guinea pigs for the advancement of the field. Or plain adventurous. I know I was when I applied to become an astronaut. Ironically it was my son that kept me grounded. I was pregnant at the time and when they found out (I did not volunteer that information, the medical tests revealed the fertile condition I was in...) they told me they were very happy for me, BUT they could not allow further testing on my body. I was furious of course and have never forgiven that damn committee. It is a bit of comfort though that Valentina was allowed - even though it most likely was for political reasons rather than confidence in women. They wanted to beat the US not only with sending the first human into space, they wanted to be the first in space with both genders.

I've included a few links to further reading in the text above. For your convenience I've also included a short description of Valentina's life found on Britannica Online.


"Valentina V. Tereshkova. Soviet cosmonaut, the first woman to travel into space. On June 16, 1963, she was launched in the spacecraft Vostok 6, which completed 48 orbits in 71 hours. In space at the same time was Valery F. Bykovsky, who had been launched two days earlier in Vostok 5; both landed on June 19.

Although she had no pilot training, Tereshkova was an accomplished amateur parachutist and on this basis was accepted for the cosmonaut program when she volunteered in 1961. She left the program just after her flight, and on November 3, 1963, she was married to Andriyan G. Nikolayev, another cosmonaut. From 1962 until 1990/91 she was an active member in the U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet. She directed the Soviet Women’s Committee in 1968, and from 1974 to 1990/91 she served as a member of the Supreme Soviet Presidium. Tereshkova was named a hero of the Soviet Union and was twice awarded the Order of Lenin."

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